It’s two years after the events of MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (2012) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) — aka Captain America — continues fighting for his country (and the greater good in general) as an operative of S.H.I.E.L.D. while also struggling with adjusting to being a living anachronism who’s been time-displaced by seven decades. Partnered with veteran super-spy the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a crack team of the hardest of hardcore special ops soldiers, Cap and crew storm a hijacked ship to rescue the ransomed innocents onboard, but during the mission Cap discovers the Widow acting on a separate and rather shady mission that he was not made aware of. That discovery puts him at odds with S.H.I.E.L.D. direct or Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who, seeing Cap’s discomfort with possessing a strong sense of morality that runs counter to a career in the sometimes-nasty world of international espionage, clues him in on Operation: Insight, a government initiative that will put three new heavily-armed heli-carriers in the air, each ready to rock some heavy-duty ordnance on the nation’s enemies before they have a chance to actually get up to anything. Cap, being the true blue guy that he is, states that he’s all for fighting in the name of freedom, but this latest plan reads not as freedom but as a means of imposing order by means of devastating, practically-applied preemptive fear-mongering. While Cap stews over his disgust with S.H.I.E.L.D. and his own role in furthering their agenda, Fury, to his horror, discovers that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s security protocols have been compromised and the control of Operation: Insight is in the wrong hands. Fury soon finds himself targeted by unknown foes that dispatch a legendary, highly skilled, bionic-armed — and apparently un-aging — assassin known as the Winter Soldier, and calling the resulting takedown brutal would be a gross understatement. With Fury taken off the board, Cap, the Widow, and para-rescue veteran/PTSD counselor Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) — known to longtime comics readers as the Falcon — must ass-kick their way through a maze of intrigue and low-down treachery that leads to the highest levels of government, and whatever the outcome, things will never be the same for any of the players.
That’s really as much as I can say about the plot without giving away its intricacies and surprises, but I will say that I greatly enjoyed the film. It’s every bit as good as its predecessor, only with the WWII period flavor replaced with that of a political/espionage thriller, and with the action cranked up considerably. With Cap’s origin out of the way, the movie’s main thrust it to take the audience along with the most moral of heroes on a journey through the murkiest waters of the global spookshow as filtered through the sensibilities of the Marvel Universe. A few notes:
- Spectacular fight choreography that lets us see how well Cap fights when not relying solely on his shield-slinging chops. The fight in a crowded elevator, in which Cap decimates close to a dozen counter-terrorism hardcores and regular S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and the in-the-street battle against the Winter Soldier are standouts that had the audience cheering.
Mess with the best, lose like the rest.
- More quality ass-whuppery from the Black Widow.
- The Falcon finally being rendered in a way that made me care about him as a character, something that was long overdue, especially since he shared Cap’s monthly comics series as his partner for a number of years in the 1970s.
- The live-action debut of Batroc (Georges St-Pierre), and the man can fight like an utter sumbitch.
- Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, the man who hired Nick Fury as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The last guy I ever expected to see in a Marvel Comics movie, Redford’s terrific and totally believable.
- I saw the film in 2D and nothing that I saw appeared to be specifically geared for the 3D effect, so I suggest you opt for the 2D and save yourself the extra bucks.
- As expected, the movie features two Easter eggs at the end; one immediately after the main cast credits that prefigures the next AVENGERS installment, and one at the very end that looks to be an element that will be pursued in Cap’s next solo outing.
- Based on the strength of this entry, I’m very interested in seeing where Captain America’s solo adventures go from here, especially now that he’s partnered with the Falcon.
I saw the film at the Marvel Comics company screening with a number of friends and former colleagues, and several of those comics veterans hailed CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER as the best Marvel movie yet. That opinion was espoused by people who would not say that in order to tow the company line, so take it for what it’s worth.
Yours Truly, at the Marvel Comics screening at the Ziegfeld. The shield belongs to a super-fan whom I've seen at the NY Comic Con several times over the years, and all of the signatures of comics luminaries are authentic.